Wednesday, July 12, 2006
France to permit gay blood donations
The French Minister of Health Xavier Bertrand has announced that the prohibition on blood donations by gay men will end after 23 years. Since the matter is of some importance and since it's doubtful that the American media will pay any attention, here's the story by Jean-Yves Nau in Le Monde. Bear in mind that Le Monde is not noted for its liberal views.
Certain male homosexuals, twenty-three years after their exclusion, should again be able to make blood donations, contrary to the judgment of several experts in health product safety.
"The current permanent prohibition aimed at 'men having sexual relations with other men' doesn't seem acceptable to me, since it in effect stigmatized a population and not certain practices. So it's going to be eliminated," the Minister of Health Xavier Bertrand confirmed to Le Monde.
Officials of the French Blood Bank are currently proceding with the revision of all questionnaires presented to blood donors, and in cooperation with the French Federation of Voluntary Blood Donors, an information and prevention guide concerning the sexual practices of these donors is being developed.
Mr. Bertrand notes that the experts haven't produced any proof that the donation of blood by a heterosexual having unprotected relations with multiple partners was less dangerous than that of a homosexual having no at-risk behavior.
"A WORRYING SITUATION"
"I want us to speak in the future not of 'populations at risk' but of 'sexual practices at risk," Mr. Bertrand underscored. "It isn't a question so much of ignoring a very troublesome situation—the regrowth of the HIV epidemic among male homosexuals; on the contrary it's a matter of remembering the danger of at-risk practices whether they be homosexual or heterosexual."
The matter had been raised a short while ago by Jack Lang. In a memo of May 11 addressed to Mr. Bertrand, the socialist deputy judged that this exclusion put into effect two years after the emergence of the AIDS epidemic constituted "an extremely shocking discriminatory measure."
In his reply, dated May 17, Mr. Bertrand explained that "Homosexuality of itself very evidently does not constitute a criterion for exclusion (...) The epidemiological data show that the prevalence of HIV infection in the sexually active male homosexual population is 12.3%, as opposed to 0.2% in the general population. Therefore it isn't the fact of being homosexual, but the practice of sexual relations between men that constitutes a contraindication to the donation of blood. Besides, female homosexuality is not a contraindication." [a Simply Appalling translation]
Paul Parant at tetu.com elaborated on the announcement—
A discrimination is in the process of falling. Going back to previous statements, the Minister of Health, Xavier Bertrand, announced on Thursday July 7, following a meeting on the subject, the ending of the exclusion of gays from blood donation.... [a] turnaround all the more spectacular since the General Administration for Health and the French Blood Bank remained opposed to the change.
Concretely, his advisors point out to Têtu, in the questionnaire that is presented to donors, the question "Have you had homosexual relations? should be changed to "Have you participated in at-risk sexual practices?"
Following the meetings initiated at the request of Jean-Luc Roméro, president of Local Elected Officials against AIDS, the minister recognized that the presentation of the questionnaire could appear discriminatory and inappropriate for safe or virgin gays.....
Jacques Lizé, president of SOS Homophobia, is more circumspect: "Between the announcement and the reality, I'm waiting to see what's going to happen when a gay presents himself to give blood." [a Simply Appalling translation]
When do you think such a decision will be made in the U.S.?